Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bettering a bag

 Ava, my daughter, is a huge fan of the Japanese animation genius Hayao Miyazaki and most things from the fantastic Studio Ghibli.  If you are a parent of a young child, My Neighbor Totoro is a wonderful film of his to start with, and older kids and their adults will love Spirited Away and a long list of others.  Ava might be annoyed that I have not listed them all, to show my true respect for his work, but you can go a- looking yourself because I want to show you what she recently made of a birthday present we gave her, which will show respect enough.

I can brag about Ava easily because she is such a creative person and her art is so darn good.  You'll agree without even knowing her.  Brag, brag, brag.  With a big trip to Ireland on the horizon (we just got back.  Amazing.  More on that another time) we thought it would be good for her to have a proper art bag to carry her materials around from castle, to priory, to Abbey.  I found a plain canvas messenger bag at a local store and after she unwrapped it, we went up to the studio to make it hers.  She embellished it with, of course, a Totoro, using the freezer paper stencil technique. Here is how it works:

What you'll need:
- a canvas bag
- freezer paper
- craft knife
- pencil
- fabric paint or acrylic paint

so plain!

1) Draw a design on the paper side of your freezer paper- Ava free handed this, but you could grab an image off the net or from a book or something and trace it.
2) Cut out the main shape. We used a craft knife, but scissors might work, depending on the design.  As you can see, there are lots of details on Totoro's body, but Ava wanted his main body shape to be grey, so she first cut this out and then pressed it with a hot iron to the canvas. When she was satisfied with the freezer paper being securely in place, she painted that open space and then let it dry in the sun.
3) Meanwhile, she cut out the details or Totoro's body.
She wanted Totoro's head and ears to remain grey, so the next piece she pressed to the DRY painted body, was the following piece.  This protected that painted area but allowed the belly to show, and cut the facial features so paint could be applied there too.
She also ironed on the little belly marks so the places beneath them would remain grey after the belly was painted yellow. It looked like this before the paint was applied.

4) Paint was applied, taking care not to let it seep under the freezer paper.  Brushing from the paper in towards the area to be painted is a good technique to ensure crisp lines.

Now, this is an awesome bag.  She carried it all over Ireland this summer filled with sketch books, pens, and watercolors where she sat on ruined Abbeys and castles to draw and paint.  Fun!


  1. We love Totoro, too! Great idea, good tutorial. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Brilliant tutorial and great looking bag but surely there's an issue with copyright?

  3. Hey there anonymous, I am sure there might be, but since my 12 year old drew it by hand because she is such a fan, I figured it was worth showing it. I hope Disney or Studio Ghibli would give itty bitty me a pass on this one. Thanks for the kind words too!